By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The implementation of a new law introducing heavy fines for littering in Rio de Janeiro, which should have come into force on Monday, July 1st has been postponed. The reasons given for delaying the implementation are the protests and the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD) at the end of the month.
The law Lixo Zero (Zero Waste) is aimed at cleaning public spaces, where littering is frequent, and educating people to throw their waste into the trash bins. Fines were planned to range from R$157 for throwing a can on the street to up to R$3,000 for large-scale waste dumping.
Authorities say the implementation of the law has been postponed until August for a combination of reasons. First, mayor Eduardo Paes wanted to increase public awareness campaigns before beginning to charge people for throwing their waste away.
Second, the protests have led the mayor to be careful to introduce a controversial fine. Third, due to the upcoming WYD on July 23rd – 28th, many 2.5 million tourists are expected to fill the city, making an implementation difficult if not impossible.
“I thought it will be better to postpone the fining until August. Besides the protests, we have the final of the Confederations Cup. And in July, where many Cariocas are out of town, we have a lot of tourists and the visit of the Pope,” Paes explained to O Globo.
As an awareness-raising campaign, Companhia Municipal de Limpeza Urbana (COMLURB – the government waste disposal company) will enlarge a pilot project, which started a little over two weeks ago in Tijuca. There, the company’s agents approach people caught littering, although for the moment are not issue any fines.
The Lixo Zero fines will be introduced in August. Vinicius Roriz, president of COMLURB, explains, “We are very confident that the introduction of fines will help to change the behavior of the Rio residents. Even more in this moment, where the Brazilian people wish that society changes.”
The littering control will first start in Centro and then also be introduced in Ipanema, Leblon and Lagoa. After that Copacabana, as well as Catete, Flamengo, Botafogo and Glória will receive agents controlling littering.
Alfonso Stefanini, an environmental consultant, commented on the program, “While education to keep litter off the streets is important by way of fines, such as with the Rio Zero Lixo program, Rio de Janeiro has major problems with waste collection in its suburbs and favelas, outside of the city’s popular tourist destinations.”
According to a World Bank report in 2001 the city of Rio de Janeiro produced 1.2 kilograms of waste per person per day, amounting to a total of 7,059 tons every day. Many Rio residents cite the lack of waste bins as a reason for frequent littering. Yet, the city currently has a rate of 200 residents per waste bin, whereas Curitiba, known as a clean city, only has a waste bin for every 400 residents.
Beyond challenges of littering, the city recycles only three percent of its waste (252 tonnes generated daily from 8,403) according to a June 2012 report. COMLURB only separates 22.68 tons, or 0.27 percent, and the other 2.73 percent of the recycling is happening by individuals or groups working to collect materials from the trash.